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Apple Cider Vinegar for your Health?

Submitted by Amy Sercel MS RD CD

Edited by Marcia Bristow MS RDN CSSD CD

Vinegar was first described as a weight-loss aid over two hundred years ago.1 Nowadays, many claim that vinegar, and specifically apple cider vinegar, can help you shed pounds, reduce cholesterol, manage blood sugar, and more.  Vinegar is made when the sugar in fruit juice, fruits, or grains is fermented into acetic acid; in apple cider vinegar, the sugar comes from apple cider.2 Vinegar’s supposed health benefits come from the fact that it is fermented into acetic acid.  Studies suggest, however, that vinegar’s impact on health is not as significant as some sources would like you to believe.

Few scientific studies have been done in humans to see if apple cider vinegar truly leads to weight loss.  One widely cited experiment found that obese people who took apple cider vinegar every day did lose weight; however, this study is not reliable because it didn’t include many subjects and was carried out by a company that actually produces vinegar.3,4 More unbiased studies with human subjects will be needed to say for sure whether apple cider vinegar has any influence on weight loss.

Sources also claim that apple cider vinegar can help lower cholesterol levels.  As with weight loss, more research in humans is needed to say whether this is actually true.  Right now, scientific studies on this topic have mixed results, and a lot of the research showing that apple cider vinegar does impact cholesterol levels has been done in mice and rats, not humans.5 One study that included humans asked people to take 30 milliliters (about 2 tablespoons) of apple cider vinegar every day.  After four months, there were no significant changes in their cholesterol or triglyceride levels.6

One area where apple cider vinegar has shown some promise is in the reduction of blood glucose levels.  A review of eleven scientific studies found that the average blood glucose and insulin levels after eating were lower when the subjects had taken vinegar before eating.  Subjects who used apple cider vinegar consumed about 4 teaspoons of vinegar before meals, and subjects who used white vinegar consumed between 2 and 6 teaspoons.7 Researchers aren’t exactly sure why this might happen.  One possible explanation is that vinegar causes your stomach to empty more slowly, so you won’t digest and absorb sugar as quickly.6,7 This makes sense because vinegar is very acidic, and when your stomach contents are more acidic the sphincter between your stomach and intestines opens less often.  It’s important to note that vinegar’s impact on blood glucose is unpredictable, and therefore it would not be a good idea to try to use vinegar as a way to manage your blood sugar if you have diabetes or to combine vinegar with glucose-lowering medications.

Large doses of apple cider vinegar can make you lose potassium in your urine, so taking it with diuretics can cause your blood potassium levels to become dangerously low.  Taking undiluted apple cider vinegar can also irritate your throat because of its acidity.1 Instead, use apple cider vinegar in a salad dressing or marinade to add flavor to your foods without adding a lot of calories.  If your goal is to lose weight, reduce cholesterol, or manage diabetes, talk to a Registered Dietitian who can give you an appropriate meal plan.  In all cases, eating within your calorie needs, reducing your intake of foods high in fat and added sugar, and choosing a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein is a great way to start!

References:

  1.  Kohn JB. Is Vinegar an Effective Treatment for Glycemic Control or Weight Loss? J Acad Nutr Diet. 2015;115(7):1188. doi:10.1016/j.jand.2015.05.010.
  2.  Ho CW, Lazim AM, Fazry S, Zaki UKHH, Lim SJ. Varieties, production, composition and health benefits of vinegars: A review. Food Chem. 2017;221:1621-1630. doi:10.1016/j.foodchem.2016.10.128.
  3.  KONDO T, KISHI M, FUSHIMI T, UGAJIN S, KAGA T. Vinegar Intake Reduces Body Weight, Body Fat Mass, and Serum Triglyceride Levels in Obese Japanese Subjects. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 2009;73(8):1837-1843. doi:10.1271/bbb.90231.
  4.  Younkin L. Is Apple Cider Vinegar Good for Weight Loss? EatingWell. http://www.eatingwell.com/weight-loss/foods/faq/apple-cider-vinegar/is_apple_cider_vinegar_good_for_weight_loss. Published March 2016. Accessed April 25, 2017.
  5.  Samad A, Azlan A, Ismail A. Therapeutic effects of vinegar: a review. Curr Opin Food Sci. 2016;8:56-61. doi:10.1016/j.cofs.2016.03.001.
  6.  Panetta CJ, Menk JS, Jonk YC, Brown AJ, Powers MA, Shapiro AC. Prospective Randomized Clinical Trial Evaluating the Impact of Vinegar on High Density Lipoprotein. J Am Diet Assoc. 2010;110(9):A87. doi:10.1016/j.jada.2010.06.321.
  7.  Shishehbor F, Mansoori A, Shirani F. Vinegar consumption can attenuate postprandial glucose and insulin responses; a systematic review and meta-analysis of clinical trials. Diabetes Res Clin Pract. 2017;127:1-9. doi:10.1016/j.diabres.2017.01.021.

Image source: http://www.prevention.com/eatclean/apple-cider-vinegar-facts

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